‘Twilight’ Actor Edi Gathegi Defends Laurent, Teases ‘Lone Ranger’ Cam Gigandet

'He would go off into the woods and hang out with himself,' actor says of fellow 'evil' vampire.

SANTA MONICA, California — How did we get this far along in our “Twilight” coverage and somehow not yet feature Edi Gathegi?

After missing the increasingly in-demand actor while on set , we’ve been trying to line him up for his very own “Twilight” Tuesday for a while. Finally, the same weekend he appeared at the taping for our “MTV Spoilers” special , he came into our studio for his first official interview with us.

The bad news is, it’s a Monday (sorry, Edi, we had to save tomorrow for something huge!). The good news is, we’re in the middle of 10 Days of “Twilight,” so every day is a Tuesday around here at this point.

And boy, are we glad we finally arranged a visit with the 29-year-old actor who plays the bad-but-good Laurent in the vampire flick (out this Friday! OME!) and will play an important part in the upcoming sequels. In person, he is an affable, smart guy who does one hell of a Michael Jackson imitation. Read on for Edi’s thoughts concerning the joys of teasing Cam Gigandet, the movie set he snuck onto as a teen, and why he wants Kate Beckinsale to bite him.

MTV: How did you get started in this crazy business?

Edi Gathegi: Well, in college, I was undeclared, and I was trying to play basketball, and I blew my knee out. So, to break up the monotony of depression, I took an acting class and fell in love with it — and the rest is history. I went from one conservatory to the next conservatory. I went to NYU’s graduate acting program and came out to L.A. right after graduation.

MTV: When you look back now, do you think you had your acting skills from the get-go?

Gathegi: Hell no! I was terrible! [Laughs.] That’s why I went to grad school, because I needed more training. I had the drive and the passion and I loved it, but I honestly wasn’t good enough to come out to L.A. and make it happen. I needed to get some more training.

MTV: Give us your take on Laurent.

Gathegi: Laurent is what most would consider a traditional vampire, meaning he kills human beings to sustain himself. The Cullens are vegetarians; they kill animals to sustain themselves. But Laurent is not necessarily an evil vampire. He just has to do that because that’s what nature requires him to do. James is the evil one, so while Laurent is classified as a bad guy, I think he’s just a vampire, you know? He’s got many different levels to him — he’s not just all bad, but he’s not completely good.

MTV: Laurent will struggle with becoming a vegetarian vampire in the sequels. Have you ever tried vegetarianism yourself?

Gathegi: I actually was a vegetarian for many years. But then Thanksgiving came, and I ate turkey. It was delicious. I couldn’t turn it down. It’s just so hard!

MTV: Laurent has a very distinctive costume. Did you have much input into its design?

Gathegi: Well, in the costume fittings — this is actually what I loved about [director] Catherine [Hardwicke]. She was very hands-on. She was, like, bringing out pieces of clothing from her own wardrobe, like belts that she was fitting on me. We discussed who Laurent was and what he might look like with his outfits. I figured that this was a guy who has lived for hundreds of years, and he has probably picked and chosen from the best fashion styles of the day. And we came together with this ensemble that you’ll see in the movie.

MTV: Did you get along really well right away with your co-villains, Cam Gigandet and Rachelle Lefevre ?

Gathegi: Yeah, yeah. Rachelle and I are dear friends, like partners in crime. Cam was wonderful. I love working with him, but he’s sort of like a lone ranger. He would go off into the woods and hang out with himself, which he loved to do, and we made fun of him for that. [Laughs.]

MTV: Were you familiar with Stephenie Meyer’s books before you got the “Twilight” script?

Gathegi: No, I didn’t know what “Twilight” was when I auditioned for it. It wasn’t until I was being seriously considered for the role that I read the books, and I became an instant fan. Now I’ve read the books, all four of them, and I’m a Twilighter.

MTV: What was your favorite stunt, and how hard was it to learn?

Gathegi: Well, really the only stunt that I was able to do was the magic carpet, and that was pretty difficult. It was moving at about 15 miles an hour, and we were walking on it, so it appears as if we’re walking 30 miles an hour casually — we had to be in pretty good shape to just stay on the thing! We each fell down several times. We had to hold on to ropes. You start by kneeling down, and then as [the carpet] starts to move, you can stand up and then actually walk. There’s a big jerk in the beginning, so you don’t want to be standing up then — otherwise, you’ll fall on your butt!

MTV: We know Stephenie Meyer came to the set several times. Did you two get to bond at all?

Gathegi: We actually bonded over me playing a Mormon character on “House.” She is a Mormon, so we had a lengthy conversation on that. [Her story] is truly inspirational, to think that you can have a dream and then just commit yourself to the images in the dream and have it come to reality. Now, with Barack Obama becoming president , I mean, anything is possible if you put your mind to it.

MTV: We have some questions straight from the fans, if you’d be so kind as to answer a few.

Gathegi: Are they going to get intense? Are we going to talk about mac ‘n’ cheese ? I can’t answer any questions about mac ‘n’ cheese, because I’ve got a strict “no mac ‘n’ cheese” clause in my contract.

MTV: We’ll have to hope not! First question: In your opinion, who played the best vampire in a movie ever? And if you could be turned by that vampire, would you?

Gathegi: I’m not a huge vampire fan — is that blasphemous to say? I’m a huge “Twilight” fan, but this mythology is very different. I’ll say Edward [Cullen is my favorite], because every guy wants to be Edward, and every woman wants Edward. But would I want to be turned by Edward? No.

MTV: I would think if you’re a dude, you wouldn’t want another dude vampire to bite you.

Gathegi: Not at all. What’s that girl’s name from “Underworld”? Kate Beckinsale? She could bite me. [Laughs.]

MTV: Which of your co-stars ate the weirdest things on set?

Gathegi: I’d say that might be me. I was trying to be fit for the walking-out-of-the-forest-scene [where my shirt is open], but as soon as that scene was done, we went to Voodoo Doughnuts, and we would eat all kinds of nasty, delicious sweets. Kellan [Lutz] has a crazy metabolism, so he can eat anything he wants. He eats candy like nobody’s business.

MTV: Any funny bloopers from the set?

Gathegi: Well, the first day of rehearsal, we did the whole confrontation coming out of the forest, for the baseball scene. And Peter [Facinelli] ‘s character, Carlisle, says: “Are you good at baseball?” We were improvising, and I responded, “Does a baby eat candy?” — which makes no sense. When I realized that made no sense, I said, “No, no, no. Does a baby taste like candy?” But everybody was already laughing. That was sort of embarrassing.

MTV: A lot of fans snuck onto the “Twilight” set during filming. Has there ever been a movie that made you want to sneak onto its set?

Gathegi: Well, I’ll say [1993's] “Made in America,” with Will Smith and Whoopi Goldberg, back in the day. I did sneak on that set. It was the first movie set I had ever been on, and it was a surreal experience, and it totally opened up my eyes to this world. I actually got a chance to work with Whoopi Goldberg recently on “Life on Mars,” and I got to tell her that she was my first experience with moviemaking. She was very kind.

MTV: A fan asks: If you could pick any food to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Gathegi: Ice cream. Didn’t even think about it! Ben & Jerry’s Chocolate Fudge Brownie. But I don’t need that in the mail, because it will melt, thank you.

MTV: Is there anything you would like the fans to mail you?

Gathegi: A Lamborghini ? [Laughs.]

MTV: Maybe you and Cam could race. Last question: What were you for Halloween?

Gathegi: I’m sorry to disappoint, but I didn’t dress up! I dress up for my job, like, all the time, so I’m kind of dressed-up out. I was me! I do have a red jacket that I threw on that I wear, and everyone thought I was Michael Jackson. So, I guess I was Michael Jackson. [Edi does a flawless imitation of Michael Jackson singing a song.]

MTV: That was the greatest thing I have ever seen.

Gathegi: That was really good? Do you think I could get a job at MTV?

MTV: Maybe. Does it mean something to you that, in the future, people are going to dress up for Halloween as the vampires, maybe as Laurent?

Gathegi: That’s cool! Weird, but cool. If I see somebody dressed as Laurent, I think it would just make my day!

MTV: That would be awesome if someday you opened your door to some little kid dressed as Laurent.

Gathegi: Yeah, a mini-Laurent. I’d give him all my candy!

Before the most-anticipated film of the year, “Twilight,” opens November 21, we’re celebrating with 10 Days of “Twilight,” featuring exclusive interviews, scenes, photos and more.

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